How To Format SD Card On Mac [All You Need To Know]

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Velina Nenova
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Velina Nenova

Updated · Aug 15, 2023

Velina Nenova
Social Media and Digital Marketing Expert | Joined March 2022 | LinkedIn
Velina Nenova

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Joined November 2021
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SD cards have gained immense popularity as storage devices, particularly among electronic gadgets like smartphones, SLRs, and other devices.

With SSD memory costing several times higher per gigabyte than traditional storage, newer MacBooks often have less storage than their older hard disk counterparts.

The SD card will be handy for professional users like photographers and video producers, allowing them to transfer files quickly.

Before use, SD cards must be formatted to modify the file system and ensure privacy.

Learn how to format your SD card using different methods and issues you might encounter when formatting it through this article.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Users can format SD cards on Mac using the Disk Utility app or the command line tool.
  • Third-party apps for Mac can format SD cards in case the built-in tools cannot.
  • Users can still extract essential files from an SD before they begin formatting. Disk Utility functions such as First Aid and Recover Disk can perform this.

Purpose of Formatting a Memory Card on Mac

When a user format an SD card, all the data is erased, creating a fresh directory structure from which your camera or device may store new data.

Consider it a simple method to start over with the card—no files, no occupied space, just a space for your new data. 

There are many reasons to format your memory card on Mac before using it. These reasons are the following:

To Modify the Filesystem

Different file systems are compatible with diverse devices. Therefore, you must modify the file system to make your secure digital media compatible with a specific device. This necessitates formatting it in the requisite file system.

Fix Corrupted SD Card

If your data drive becomes infected with a virus or you receive a message that the disk is corrupted or illegible when attempting to access it, formatting it resolves the issue. 

It is one of the most effective methods for preparing your storage drive for reuse.

👍 Helpful Article: Read our Techjury article How to Get Rid of a Virus to learn various virus removal methods for your PC.

Erase data

When you need to free up space on your storage media, you can format files to delete them. It will create more space for you by removing any existing data that you no longer need.

Now that you've learned why formatting an SD card is necessary, you'll be ready to do it confidently using the following methods.

Format an SD Card on Mac

If you're using an SD card for the first time, changing projects, or encountering problems like error messages, formatting the card is recommended. It won't take a few minutes to format the SD card using your Mac.

Warning: Formatting your SD card will everything that’s on it. Make sure to copy and save any important data before formatting.

You can walk through the processes of formatting an SD card on your Mac using the following steps.

A quick way to format an SD or MicroSD card is doing it on Mac. The good news is that you do not need to acquire an expensive app to accomplish this; everything you need is already included in the macOS operating system.

Format SD Cards on Mac Using the Disk Utility App

Here’s a quick way to format an SD or MicroSD card on a Mac using the Disk Utility App:

  1. Insert your SD card on Mac or an SD card reader.

    An SD card adapter plugged into Mac

  2. Navigate to the Disk Utility app

    Disk Utility App on MacOS
  3. Select your SD card.
  4. Go to the top menu bar and click Erase.
  5. Choose the appropriate file system format. (EXFAT for SD cards over 64GB; MS-DOS FAT if it’s 32GB or smaller.)
    Selecting file systems on MacOS
  6. Click Erase.

Format SD Cards on Mac Using the Terminal

Another option is using the Terminal application to reformat an SD card on a Mac. However, this is a more sophisticated method for working with SD cards and is best suited for more experienced users. 

Using the Terminal app requires specific command knowledge. This program supports the formatting of cards of any capacity.

These are the processes required to use Terminal:

  1. Insert an SD card in the reader.
  2. Use Launchpad to open the Terminal app, or press Cmd+Space and type terminal.
    Command line or Terminal app MacOS
  3. Type diskutil list to find your SD card.
  4. Look for the external and match the storage capacity.
  5. Type sudo diskutil eraseDisk FAT32 SDCARD MBRFormat /dev/disk4 for 32 GB or smaller cards.
  6. Type sudo diskutil eraseDisk ExFAT SDCARD MBRFormat /dev/disk4 for cards larger than 32 GB.
  7. If necessary, enter your password.
  8. Wait for the command to finish.

📝 Note: The location /dev/disk4 is just an example. The actual location of your SD card can be different. The diskutil list command gives information about your SD card location.

Using the Terminal application's dd command, delete the contents of an SD card on a Mac. Ensure you have a backup of your files and folders before executing this command, as it will result in total data loss. 

The SD Association also provides free alternative applications for formatting an SD card on a Mac. Learn more about these third-party apps in the next section.

Using Third-Party Apps

Built-in formatting tools on Mac and Windows can usually format SD cards. However, users may need to optimize them for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, resulting in inferior performance. 

It is highly recommended that you use SD Card Formatter to get the best performance out of your SD cards, as they can fail under the weight of everything that arrives on your mobile phone via messaging services.

To know more about these alternatives you can use, read the following.

SD Formatter - Better SD Card Performance

SD Formatter can format any file system or device. User options include Quick format and Overwrite format.

Here’s a simple method for using SD Formatter.

  1. Download the SD Formatter application.
  2. Launch the SD Formatter program.
  3. Select the drive letter of the SD card's device.
  4. Choose a format.

    SD Formatter Format button 
  5. To confirm the formatting procedure, click Yes.

Once formatting is complete, the SD card will be available for use. The SD card's maximum capacity is also restored after formatting.

iPartition - Effective File System

Drives, including detachable ones, can be partitioned, deleted, and formatted. The cleaning procedure takes a few minutes, and formatting a simple flash drive or an external hard drive follows the same pattern.  

Mac users who need to create, delete, resize, relocate, or clone hard drive partitions will find iPartition a handy solution. It is compatible with both internal and external devices without destroying irreplaceable data.

Warning: Older partitioning tools may erroneously treat a disk partitioned using GPT as an MBR-partitioned disk.

Here’s how to navigate your iPartition program:

  1. Along the top will be the customizable interface. The Partition Map, Operations, and Info buttons enable you to display or hide additional utility views.
  2. You will find a list of selectable disks in the upper-left corner.
  3. Below the inventory of disks, a list of partitions for the selected disk will be displayed.
  4. The primary section will display a pie chart representing the selected disk.
  5. At the bottom, a status bar tells you if there are any warnings regarding the disk, such as whether any inconsistencies are detected. 

iPartition app interfaceSource: docplayer

If you like the program after trying the trial version and decide to purchase it, you can do so via the official website.

Discover the common issues you might encounter when formatting an SD card on a Mac in the following section.

Issues When Formatting an SD Card on Mac

You may encounter various issues when formatting an SD card on a Mac. These issues are usually caused by malware or any software anomaly that may have corrupted the card.

In addition, the SD card may be password-protected, or you may have improperly ejected the card.

Here are some common problems that users face and their possible solutions:

Write-protected SD Cards

Some SD cards are write-protected, preventing you from modifying the stored data. This feature safeguards data to prevent accidental deletion. Still, it may prevent you from formatting an SD card on a Mac. 

Here's how to resolve the situation:

  1. If your card came with a physical lock, toggle the switch to the opposite direction
  2. Change the read-only files via Sharing & Permissions feature
  3. Use Disk Utility’s First Aid tool.

Corrupted SD Cards

Extracting the files from the memory card before moving forward with the formatting process is crucial to avoid losing all the data stored there.

However, you cannot extract files on a corrupted card, so the card has to be repaired first.

Here are the methods that may help if the corruption of the SD card is logical by nature.

  1. Connect the SD card to your Mac.
  2. Open the Disk Utility app (go to Launchpad and type Disk Utility in the search field).
  3. Find your SD card from the list of devices on the sidebar on the left.
  4. Click First Aid at the top of the window.
  5. Click Run to start the process
  6. When complete, click Done and eject your SD card
  7. Then check for errors using Terminal.

📝 Note: To check for errors using the command line tool, run diskutil list to see the disk location of your SD card. Then, run diskutil verifyDisk [disk location].

If the card “appears to be OK” according to the terminal results, you can extract your files and then format the SD after all the essential files are copied.

SD Card Not Readable Error by Reformatting

If First Aid fails to repair the error on a Mac, the unreadable SD card must be reformatted to be usable.

To avoid data loss, however, you should still try to recover data from the unreadable SD card and then reformat the card to solve the Mac not reading SD card error.

Data Recovery steps:

  1. Open the Disk Utility app.
  2. Choose the SD card.
  3. Click on First Aid from the toolbar at the top.
  4. Click Recover Disk in the bottom right, then wait for the process to complete.

After data recovery, you can format the SD card to make it readable again.


SD card formatting is crucial for multiple purposes. First, it ensures your memory card is free of corrupt files, malware, and viruses.

Second, it can enhance the efficacy of your memory card by freeing up space and facilitating the reading and writing of data by your device.

Following the aforementioned procedures will allow you to use your memory storage devices for additional endeavors.

However, you should be cautious when formatting the memory card, mainly when using Disk Utility. This can delete data from a different storage device.

👍 Helpful Articles: Techjury has other useful guides for Mac PCs. You might be interested in the following articles:


Why my SD card is not reading on Mac?

That could be because your MacBook's card reader or SD card port might be defective. It could also be a virus infection, SD card corruption, or incorrect system settings that cause external drives to be hidden or SD cards to be unreadable on a Mac.

What is the difference between FAT32 and NTFS?

The FAT32 file system cannot store files larger than 4 GB, whereas the NTFS file system can. The NTFS file system has a higher disk utilization rate and can manage disk space more efficiently than FAT32.

Is FAT32 or exFAT better for Mac?

exFAT is better than FAT32 because it addresses FAT32's most limiting characteristics: file and drive capacities. FAT32 cannot manage partitions or files larger than 8TB or 4GB. In contrast, exFAT can manage files and partitions up to 128 petabytes, or 128,000 terabytes.

How do I know if my SD card is exFAT or FAT32?

Select 'Properties' from the list of options accessible by right-clicking the drive. A new window will appear with your drive's information, including its file system. If 'exFAT' or 'NTFS' is displayed, it indicates that the current format is not FAT32.


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